How do I Become a Medical Illustrator?

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  • Written By: Sonal Panse
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 February 2019
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Medical illustration is a good career choice for people with a talent for art and a yen for the medical field. Medical illustrators provide medically-related illustration, graphic art and photography services. They create imagery that convey medical ideas and concepts in a detailed, accurate manner.

Different medical and medically-related fields require medical illustrations for a variety of purposes. Medical illustrations are used in a wide range of fields. Some of these are advertising, editorial, institutional, legal, healthcare, academic and instructional.

Medical illustrators produce visual and graphic materials that are used as a teaching aid in medical schools. They may also assist with producing patient informational brochures, posters, reports and other materials. Medical illustrators may work freelance or be employed in hospitals, medical schools, research organizations, publishing companies, advertising companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

To become a medical illustrator, one must have high level artistic skills and a high level of medical education. Medical illustrators must have an in-depth knowledge of anatomy. Knowledge of computer technology and 3D design skills is essential.

Since medical illustrators work in concert with a variety of other professionals, it is important to have good communication skills. It helps to have good writing skills. It is also essential to be a responsible sort of person and be able to handle stress and responsibility well. Anyone that wants to become a medical illustrator must have an absolute eye for accuracy.


A student hoping to become a medical illustrator should take art and science courses at high school and graduate levels. Art courses should include life drawing and painting, illustration, commercial art, graphic design, computer graphics, color theory, printing technology and photography. Science courses should cover biology, chemistry, zoology, anatomy, physiology, embryology and histology.

Graduate students should take science courses that are required for medical school. To become a medical illustrator, students must know how to dissect cadavers, examine radiographs, study pathology and the procedures followed in surgeries. Art and premedical courses must be followed by a master's degree in medical illustration.

Master's degree programs in medical illustration are accredited by the Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Educational Programs (CAAHEP). There are limited seats and the competition for these can be tough. To get admission, it is necessary to have consistently excellent grades and a knockout art portfolio.

Students requiring financial assistance should check with the non-profit Vesalius Foundation. Established in 1988, their goal is to help advance medical visual communication education and research. They can assist with getting scholarships and grants.

Qualified and experienced medical illustrators can get a certification from the Medical Illustrators Board of Certification. The board conducts a written test and a portfolio review to verify competency. To maintain certification status, medical illustrators must continually polish up their skills and knowledge.



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